Jan 24, 2014

"If you can't travel to the motherland, Joloff Restaurant is the next best thing."

I meant to write this post a year ago. Yup. A year ago. Well, almost. I don't know why I never got around to it, but I'm planning a presentation about my Peace Corps experience, which got me curious about my blog. Turns out, more people are reading it than ever. Weird, right? 

Anyway, so a year ago my then-boyfriend-now-fiance and I took a trip to NYC and stopped by a Senegalese restaurant in Brooklyn. No one knew Pulaar, but I managed a "jere jeff" or two. 


Attaya? Yes. Yes it is. 

Batik tablecloths!

This is probably one of the two times I have ever gotten to wear that necklace in public.

Turns out my fiance likes domoda (but then again, who wouldn't?!) so we tried making it at home, with tasty results. 

Jan 28, 2013

The moment I'd been waiting for.

Every day I wear the following around my left wrist:
  • the orange and black beaded bracelet that Rugi picked up from the dirt and gave to me
  • the orange and black beaded bracelet that Tulai slid off her own wrist and onto mine because it matched
  • two of the blue beaded bracelets that came in a set of twelve I bought one morning at the Sunday market from the woman who also sells blue laundry detergent and handmade soap
  • the multi-colored beaded bracelet one of the vendors in the Banjul market gave me as a gift because anyone I bought anything from was giving me a gift
  • the "silver" bracelet I bought from the Bakau craft market the same day I touched a full-grown crocodile

And finally,  two weeks ago, my dedicated bracelet-wearing paid off. Someone recognized me as Having Lived in Africa and we struck up a conversation.

I am part of the crowd being squeezed from the Omniplex Theater at the Boston Museum of Science. A woman taps me on the shoulder. "Excuse me, did you get that bracelet in Africa?" I turn around, surprised. "Yes."

"My daughter noticed it," she says,  indicating one of the two girls standing next to her, "and thought it looked African because their father is from Mali."

"Yes, I got these in The Gambia. I was a Peace Corps volunteer there."

Turns out the mother had been a Peace Corps volunteer too, once. In Mali. So we talked about our work as volunteers and about the unrest in Mali (her husband is in Mali now) and then the crowd loosened up and the mother and her daughters went to look at the Mammoths and Mastadons exhibit, probably, but we'd already seen that so I danced down the musical stairs instead.

Dec 19, 2012

Quest: Find the Fulas

I originally wrote this post on my new blog, but then I figured, since people are still reading this one, I might as well include it here, too. 

My Pulaar language skills are fast deteriorating and I'm still no closer to locating the Fulas of Connecticut. I've joked about posting flyers around town--A faami ko mi windii? Mido yiddi ma!--but that may be the serious next step. I had high hopes for last Friday night: a West African dance performance at Wesleyan University. Sure, it would be performed by Wesleyan students, but someone had to teach them, right? And maybe that someone would speak Pulaar! In preparation, I even wore the guinea-fowl patterned shirt from last year's Tobaski outfit. Actually, paired with jeans and with a cardigan to cover the space age sleeves, it didn't look that ridiculous. Maybe.

I enjoyed the dancing, but I never got a chance to approach the teachers, real-life Ghanians. Which was okay, because their last names (according to the program) revealed them to be Probably Not Fulas. Oh well.

Nov 5, 2012

Wait, people are still reading this blog?

Okay, guess I'll write a post.

“The logic of the Peace Corps is that someday we are going to bring it home to America.”
President John F. Kennedy

I took that quote from the Peace Corps website, the part of the website discussing the Third Goal, "to help Americans understand the people and cultures of other countries."

This blog would be one example.

Walking around rural Maryland in traditional Gambian dress would be another. Sort of.

Sep 3, 2012

The contemplation of it

“I only thought that I had never seen the country so lovely, as if the contemplation of it would in itself be enough to make you happy all your life.” --Isaak Dineson, Out of Africa

I think I’m finally ready to write my final post, which is good, because I leave for the airport in nine hours. And I wish I hadn’t calculated the number of remaining hours just now, because a jolt of panic just ran through me.

There were lots of stories left to write, that I guess at this point will remain unwritten. Also lots of adventures left to have, that I guess at this point will remain un-had.

I never did find the Swedish Newspaper Warehouse.

Or go to church.

 Or see the Wassu Stone Circles.

Or photograph the Janjanbureh dragon.

I contemplated writing a post about what it felt like to leave my village, but realized it could be summarized like this:

Now I’m feeling more like this:

And what’s annoying is, everyone keeps asking how I’m feeling and while it’s nice to be cared about, it’s frustrating that I don’t have an honest answer less confusing than “I feel like Picasso’s Family of Saltimbanques.” So I’ve just been telling lies.

People have also been asking what’s the first thing I’m going to do in America, which is silly, because obviously the first thing I’m going to do in America is walk up to that man behind the glass and hand him my passport. I hope he says, “Welcome home” like he did when I got back from my semester in Hong Kong, because even though he says it to everyone, it still felt nice.

And some people like to ask about my Future and I sort of wave my hand and mumble something about the circus and change the subject.

But I guess the note I would like to conclude on is this:

When I said goodbye to the imam, part of our conversation went as follows:

Me: “Tomorrow I am leaving; I am going home to America.”
 The Imam: “I’m happy.”

And I thought about it some, while all my dearest friends reminded me that after I left Fatoto the people would be sad, they would cry, and their hearts would not be happy.

And I thought about it some, while I sat in the car that was taking me away, leaving home to go home. And I realized, with tears streaming down my face, that I’m happy too. So happy.

I’m happy I joined the Peace Corps. And ended up in The Gambia. And had so many adventures. But most of all, more than anything, I’m happy I got to share two years of my life with the people I did–the people in my village, the students at my school, my fellow volunteers. That sounds like the start to a speech, sorry, and I also think I've over-used the word "happy." But if it were a speech, here's what I'd tell them:

"You will not believe how glad I am that I have met you."

 I wish I’d thought of that, but it’s something I once read on a magnet. It’s true, though. Saying goodbye is never fun, two years pass too quickly, but I will always be glad to have met you, Gambia. It will be enough to make me happy all my life.

[Oh, I nearly forgot: www.sonjasblogg.wordpress.com is the address to my new blog. There is exactly one post at the moment, but no, it's not the default one. The straightforward title is so I can stop creating a new blog every time I have a new adventure. The extra 'g' is to make it less boring and more Swedish.]